By Edrie Caleb John
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has commemorated the World AIDS Day 2022, with the theme “Equalised – Achieving To End HIV.”
AHF is of the conviction that AIDS is “not over yet.”
The Media Coordinator of AHF, Esther Teh said, “Today, we are calling on the world’s attention to the painful reality which is affecting HIV program as millions of lives have been lost by not taking stock of their AIDS response. Our aim is to end AIDS by 2030. There are many challenges including inequality but the good news is that by equalizing we can end AIDS.
She said young people are the targeted individuals needed to eradicate the disease as they have sexuality education and access to all other health education so that people can be informed.
“The equality that breaks our hearts is death against children living with HIV. With the science we have today no baby should be born with HIV and no child with HIV should go without treatment. We wouldn’t allowed that to happen, that why partners are gathered here today to add our voice to say let end inequality and push to equalize, now is the time to step up. It is through international solidarity that inequality can be ease in our society,” she said.
She said HIV was growing in communities and “we have to fight because we do not want to be neighbors. AHF joins so many voices and the people living with AIDS to share our action and say let equalize access to right, to services, to resources and to best science with medicines, so this is way to ends AIDS. Let remember. AIDS is not over.
Ministry of Health representative, Victoria Kamara, said adolescent are key in every decision making and should be given the platform instead of talking on their behalf.
She said the theme reminded them that one should be at the table of discussion as inequalities had held them back because they are barriers for not achieving their goals for 2030.
“We have to tackle these inequalities together, as the right treatment should be given, access to testing and low viral role testing. We are going to work with you and fight to end AIDS and for Sierra Leone to achieve epidemic control. We have done lip service but this time around it will be different as new infections being reduced and we will work collectively to have fruitful deliberation,” she said.
Happy Kids presentative, Mrs.Content, said “we need equality in terms of the HIV provision and services special for children and adolescents presently living with HIV and that is why I am here.Twelve thousand children are living with the virus and 20% are not on treatment across the country and there are a lot more which have not been identified.
UNAIDS Country Director, Isaac Ahomesah,in his keynote address, said Human Immune Virus (HIV) is 1.7% in Sierra Leone and gender inequality is one of the major reasons why women and girls are vulnerable to infections in Sierra Leone.
He said there are more women with HIV than men as a result of multiple partners.
“Transactional sex has ignited many girls and women to have HIV because they lack economic empowerment. I am advising you now to stay away from sex but if can’t then protect yourself don’t have sex without a condom. In Sierra Leone today 30% of girls have given birth before they are 19 years old, despite the contraceptive measures,” he said.
He added that many pregnant women having the virus will transmit it to their babies because they have not been properly treated wherein the virus is preventable.
He said in 2021 many babies were demised as a result of treatment and the virus is 12% among sex workers.
He cited stigmatization as another area affecting people to live long, but that the virus can be treated if effective medication and prevention are taken among the positive people.